The first US Air Force C-17 sortie from Burundi to the Central African Republic was conducted today, reportedly delivering fifty-four personnel, six cargo pallets, and a forklift to the troubled country. The current goal of the operation is for a detachment of two US C-17 aircraft to eventually fly a full Burundian light infantry battalion into the country. The battalion consists of eight hundred and fifty personnel and associated equipment.
However, it is possible that the US will be called upon to conduct further missions in support of France’s Operation Sangaris and the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA). The US had provided similar support to France’s Operation Serval in Mali, which began in January, and remained willing to provide such support as late as August as part of Operation Juniper Micron. In addition, an update to one of the Sources Sought Synopses mentioned on Tuesday was updated today to describe a proposed “…period of performance will be between the months on or about 1 February 2014 thru 2 February 2015,” further reinforcing the likelihood that the US is look at the possibility of providing support for a protracted period of the time.
In addition, the Armed Forces Press Service said yesterday that the US military has a command and support team in Uganda and a logistics element in Burundi to support this effort, in addition to the element inside CAR already identified in the update to yesterday’s post. According to the official news item, the element in CAR is primarily to provide on the ground security. The force providers or nickname for the operation were not mentioned, but sources at AFRICOM have told Codebook: Africa that there is a nickname, but that it may not yet be releasable.
In addition to the US airlift efforts, the United Kingdom also flew a C-17 sortie to CAR yesterday, to deliver equipment to French forces. The C-17 from the Royal Air Force’s 99 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton coordinated delivery of vehicles and supplies with French military personnel. This is the second of three planned sorties by the RAF in support of Operation Sangaris, the first of which was conducted on December 6th after the UK announced its intention to provide the support. That mission saw an RAF C-17 collect armored personnel carriers from the French Air Force base at Istres-Le Tubé near Marseilles, which has been a major hub for French movements into Africa in the past year. The French have themselves have used both Cameroon and Gabon as staging areas for the deployment of forces, and recently deployed aircraft to Chad to support the effort in CAR.